17 April 2008
Music of the Spirit: Research Abstracts
© David Cubby
This month the Aurora Festival will take place in the outer suburbs of Sydney. Showcasing a wide range of national and international composers in concerts given by some of Australia's best musicians, the festival – in conjunction with the University of Western Sydney – also includes Music of the Spirit, a series of intercultural concerts and forums (including an online forum in resonate!). One outcome of the event is a refereed book, which will be co-edited by Bruce Crossman and Michael Atherton, and published by the Australian Music Centre later this year. What follows is the collection of abstracts for this research monograph and a summary of the research proposal.
The abstracts fall into three categories:
The composer-scholar perspective taken for this monograph eschews the paradigm of contemporary Western art music as a largely European-driven culture, to, instead, place it as having an Asia-Pacific identity aspect. The aesthetic has two arms to it, firstly it argues for an identifiably Pacific sound drawn from traditional Asian culture within an avant-garde European area that revitalises the Western art music tradition, whilst creating a fusion musical language. Secondly it argues for a performative-based composition which is an ethno-musicological reinterpretation of traditional Asian musics, especially from Korea.
This research proposal is to explore music with a spiritual basis from around the Pacific basin related to Western art music composition, discussing their sources and methods towards identifying an Asia-Pacific musical identity within the Western art music tradition. The research will include works by Chinary Ung, Michael Atherton and Bruce Crossman as well as music related to their practice such as contemporary and traditional music from Korea, Japan, China, Cambodia, Australia and the United States. The research will consider the spiritual traditions behind these works, the musical materials and the intersection of these ideas from Asia and Europe towards renegotiating a Pacific identity. The Chinese multi-art form approach to creativity and European structural ideas are one focus of the research whilst another is improvisatory sound as the genesis for creative ideas. The issues will be reflected on from the perspectives of insider paradigms (reflective-practice), ethno-musicological considerations, and educational creative learning processes.
The significance of this Asia-Pacific compositional research, is that it will seek to identify a Pacific voice related to place that is identifiably different to the European musical tradition, yet still within the Western art music tradition. The resultant creative work and scholarly writing will provide an archive related to Pacific musical identity unique in that it explores a fusion of creative-scholarly and insider-outsider cultural perspectives. This notion of a Pacific voice relates to Crossman, Atherton and Ung’s creative and scholarly work as well as other Pacific composers; the approach is to reinvigorate the Western art music tradition through embedding their creative work with sounds and concepts related to traditional Asian cultures of the Pacific whilst retaining a Western art music language. The significance of this approach is that it renegotiates Pacific musical identity as beyond merely ‘outsider/insider’ paradigms to instead place it as a complex fusion of traditional Asian musical and cultural values alongside transported European ideas. This approach engages with complex Asian cultural issues and European Pacific migration towards a Pacific artistic identity.
Bruce Crossman : Spiritual Essences: Sounds of an Asia-Pacific Place, Personality and Spirit in Double Resonances
Double Resonances, for piano and percussion, is about an essence of sound which is both personally resonant of the Pacific (East and Southeast Asian with European influences) and yet aims for the spiritually transcendent on emotional-human and heavenly levels (embodied and beyond). Korean Gayageum master, Hwang Byong-ki speaks of a felt spiritual essence—mŏt—an essential quality sensed within artistic endeavour and life, as well as an emotional charge from heaven that touches the human heart. Sound has spirit and emotion. Chinese writer and painter, Gao Xingjian, argues that artistic practice based on sensory perception has an organic connection to life, whereas philosophy as a type of intellectual construct is ultimately empty. Judaic-Christian thought talks of the sea-sound as profound speaking to deep from within nature—a natural presence of the divine that communicates within the human heart. Citing Daoist thought, Chinese composer Chou Wen-chung talks of the dao—a life force that moves across things—as being the essential quality behind artistic practice. So with regard to sound—its creative heart—two principles emerge: emotion/feeling and spirit/sensibility. In Resonances I consider that essence is evoked as sounds of place and personality with a spiritual transcendence component that aims to speak in human and heavenly spheres. Specifically on the physical level, sounds located from within the Pacific basin such as Filipino kulintang percussion, Korean and Chinese gongs, and East-coast Australian bird-call heterophony within Asian modes (Chinese Chiao-tiao mode, Filipino kulintang scales) are used to signify my Pacific environs. These Pacific resonances sit alongside what I consider to be personality sounds such as jazzy intrusions, the reverberant principle and personal interval colour matrixes. On the spiritual level, emotionally charged climactic moments and thrusting juxtaposed rhythms speak of the human-touch/spirit whilst symbolised sounds (communion bell-like crotales and Thai temple gong) suggest another world. This other-world essence is also expressed in an embodied way through interval-colour and the reverberant—an inner-felt-tension of mŏt or the in-dwelt presence of spirit.
Michael Atherton: Oku ou Talanoa mo Hoki Loto
The composition Oku Ou Talanoa Mo Hoku Loto is essentially an investigation of cultural interaction. Tongan and Korean traditional music are adapted to enhance collaboration between a composer/performer, a poet, and a vocalist—all of diverse cultural backgrounds. An aesthetic is developed through a process of intercultural enquiry that combines a Tongan text with English translation in a through-composed performance. The text and the musical gestures resonate with the Tongan lakalaka, a form of ceremonial sung and danced poetry, and Korean pansori, a folk opera genre that in turn draws on kut (shamanic ritual) and minyo (vernacular song). The composer, also a musicologist and creative practitioner, explores the problem of combining a Western classical aesthetic with non-Western practices. The combination of Tongan and Korean instruments is evaluated, as well as the efficacy of the pansori model that asks the percussionist (drummer) to fulfil the role of accompanist and rhythmic leader who should also audibly encourage the singer. It is suggested that there are demonstrable similarities between the diverse traditions combined in Oku Ou Talanoa Mo Hoku Loto. Further, the process may be considered an enrichment of the source traditions from which the composer has drawn. The conclusion emphasises divergence from a Western aesthetic of melody and harmony, moving towards a music that can elicit the inner world of the composer and the performers in a spiritual, meditative frame.
Chinary Ung: Singing Inside Aura
My paper centers on Rain of Tears and Aura, two recent pieces that demonstrate the current state of affairs in my compositional work. Since my visit to Cambodia in 2002—my first encounter with my native land in nearly forty years—I have experienced a renewal of purpose for my music that involves a bridging of the spiritual and physical dimensions in order to achieve a musical expression that is both personal and communal. Both of these works involve the representation of Buddhist principles in sound. I will attempt to explain something of the spiritual basis of this practice along with the specific means by which I have achieved some part of what I consider to be an on-going project.
Ji-Yun Lee Chun-Hyang Ka: Fusing Korean-Australian Cultural Dimensions and Catholicism Towards ‘Eternity’ as an Expression of Identity
The ‘Eternity concept’ is to inspire personal musical creativity to explore Korean-Australian cultural dimensions and Catholic spiritual sensibility in my score Chun-Hyang Ka: Korean Love Song. This sound object explores ‘eternity’ as a ‘sense of continuity’ in a Korean cultural and Catholic spiritual sense expressed in musical terms of continuity of tradition and sonic symbols. The textual dimension of Chun-Hyang Ka, an ancient love story with eternal love connotations, sets up the ideas of personal love and Korean Catholic love in a spiritual sense that speaks of Christian eternal love. This eternity idea is expressed musically through the metaphor of ‘continuity of musical traditions’ (spiritual and cultural) and sonic symbols.
The Korean Catholic tradition of glossolalia (‘speaking in tongues’ and its timbre qualities), Korean traditional music’s rhythmic modes (changdan), p’ansori vocal techniques (vibration, trills and glissandi) and modes (p’yŏngyangjo and kemyŏnjo), are merged with Western avant-garde compositional techniques such as extended timbre vocals (Liza Lim), dissonant sonority (Messiaen, Hi-Kyung Kim, Debussy and Ravel), motif design (Isang Yun, Bartok, Bruce Crossman). The aim is to create a continuity of musical traditions (spiritual, ancient and avant-garde) that expresses ‘continuance’ as a metaphor for eternity. Also, sound is used symbolically with Korean Samulnori gong-sounds (with its eternal after-tone resonance) alongside crotales (as Catholic bells) to become symbolic of the spiritual dimension and its eternity.
Ross Edwards: Etymalong and the Search for Spiritual Identity
When I went to study in Europe in the early 1970s, I was elated at having finally escaped the country I’d disparaged throughout my teenage years as a cultural wasteland. Quite quickly, however, this bumptiousness gave way to an identity crisis. As the allure of post-war Western European music began to fade in my estimation, I began to think of it as the tortured expression of a society traumatised by recent wars and still coming to terms with the effects of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, which had transformed every aspect of peoples’ lives. It seemed to me that while some composers sought, within the prevailing new language, to re-establish a connection with age-old philosophical, spiritual and cultural values, others were brazenly attempting to conjure new ones out of the atmosphere of uncertainty and despair which had become de rigueur in fashionable artistic circles. Unsure of my place in this rather depressing scene, I felt like an innocent abroad – an outsider, whose European cultural heritage was somehow diluted by his being Australian. It seemed that to gain legitimate access to this legacy I would need to reinvent myself as a native European – otherwise I would always be something of a fringe dweller, a cultural voyeur. This confusion about where I belonged led to a creative paralysis that lasted several years.
It probably didn’t occur to me as I felt sorry for myself, that this was not only a common experience for Australians living abroad, but that around the world millions of displaced people, many of them political refugees, were feeling rootless and homesick with a far greater intensity than I as they fled intolerable circumstances and adapted themselves to new lives. I wonder how much the survival of such people depends upon the background of rich and meaningful cultural values which accompanies them to new places and plays an essential part in sustaining them there. Music lovers of my generation in Australia will be aware that the Musica Viva Society, at the centre of our musical life, was the creation of refugees from a disintegrating Europe. Over the decades, its focus on the masterworks of Central European chamber music has been gradually widening to accommodate the emergence of what people are beginning to recognise as a distinctive Australian musical culture which seeks unity while embracing diversity. To its credit, the present administration has fostered this awareness through the judicious inclusion of music created by Australians for Australians. No preaching to the audience, no fatuous marketing hype, just confident, enlightened presentation – and the response continues to be encouraging.
The evolution of a broad musical genre that somehow reflects and upholds values we instinctively recognise as our own – a sort of instrument of unforced psychic and spiritual cohesion - appeals to me as a composer provided that it’s allowed to happen naturally. Returning to Australia, apprehensively at first, I became aware that the growing acceptance of our place in Southeast Asia and the Pacific was beginning to call in question our cultural dependence on Europe. Aspects of the music of neighbouring and indigenous cultures were already being reflected in the music of Peter Sculthorpe and this gradually deepened into an appreciation of their original cultural significance. These fresh and exciting prospects in Australia made me feel much more at home here than I had as an adolescent and I came to understand the importance of a sense of belonging and a sense of place that needed to be defined in some way – in my case, through music. Today, of course, the need has become more urgent as global commodification advances.
Years later, I was reminded of the schism that separates birthplace from cultural origin as I began to conceive what would become my Second Symphony, Earth Spirit Songs. I happened to be in Switzerland at the time, walking along the shore of Lake Lucerne, which I was later to describe as 'a sublime setting, inspirational to Wagner,' (and so many others, of course!) yet 'alien to the Pacific Ocean music that was welling up inside me.' (By this time, a sense of place was well established in my music). In Earth Spirit Songs – the opposites of matriarchal earth and patriarchal spirit are implicit in the title – I set northern hemisphere, albeit universal texts (the Mass of Pentecost and Hildegard von Bingen) in a chant-like and, to me, quintessentially Australian manner. Paradoxically, the only Australian text in the cycle – a poem by Judith Wright – seemed to elicit the most European-sounding accompaniment, although this is debatable.
What are our cultural roots? Clearly they are diverse and in need of some kind of matrix or collective soul if they are to add up to something meaningful which can help protect us from being swamped by global marketing forces and duped by spurious social and cultural assumptions. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that the joint marketing of one-day cricket and greasy fried chicken to thousands of children already prone to obesity could happen in a society whose implicit cultural and moral values engendered self-awareness and self-respect. Not to mention self-preservation.
Many years ago, having returned to Australia from my student years in Europe directionless and questioning everything I knew about composing, I was instinctively drawn to the sound of the Australian landscape. This became the starting point in my re-enchantment as an Australian and a composer: the intersecting voices of insects and frogs and later birdsong seeped into my subconscious and emerged, distilled, as the defining elements of my music. A radical stylistic jolt later galvanised them into quirky dance rhythms and pungent melodic shapes and gestures. They gradually became, for me, indispensable symbols with a strong attachment to this continent and its geographical surroundings.
As my, at first very spare, musical language began to expand, musical techniques and devices implied by the material gleaned from nature began to appear – universal ones such as drones; others more sophisticated and tempered by a diversity of cultural associations: gamelan-like textures (heterophony), plainsong (cantus firmus), a constant interchange of various Asian and mediaeval Western modes, didjeridu references, hocketing and increasingly elaborate Western-style counterpoint (canon). The result, in my dance-chant or maninya music, is a synergistic interplay of symbolically charged fragments. Although largely conceived for the concert hall, I’m working on extending its capacity to suspend linear time and invoke present-centred consciousness – as a sort of Australian dervish dance – which has been an important universal function of music throughout the ages.
The piano piece Etymalong, composed in 1984, was one of the fruits of my daily walks on the Pearl Beach fire trail. I spent seven idyllic years with my family in the coastal village of Pearl Beach, commuting some 90 kilometres to teach in Sydney, but spending as much time as possible in the adjacent Brisbane Waters National Park. Here, for the first time since early childhood, I experienced a sense of place, of being at one with my environment. It was here that my musical language was renewed in the manner I’ve described, from the subconscious absorption of the environmental soundscape. In no sense did I attempt to document the sounds I heard or consciously manipulate them as musical motifs or structural tools. Rather, I opened my mind in meditation before returning home to confront a blank sheet of manuscript paper, allowing my subconscious to dictate, or rather, propose what was to happen next. I was, however, obsessively selective when it came to deciding which of the surfaced products of my subconscious should be used in the piece, and how best to distribute them. I was so intent upon capturing the essence of the timeless reality I’d experienced in the bush, and so determined that it not be defiled by lurking remnants of my training in Western music, that there’s sometimes an underlying tension in this ostensibly quiescent music. (It was used to good effect – and my astonishment – on one occasion by the film director of a thriller to accompany the attempted stabbing of his wife by a crazed, whisky sodden psychiatrist. But that’s another story).
Etymalong is perhaps the purest and also the most mysterious of these musical contemplation objects, as I described the Pearl Beach pieces. It’s also (I think) tinged with nostalgia, composed as it was soon after my wife and I had committed ourselves to returning to live in the city. It would be pointless my trying to describe or analyse it – there’s no harmony, just sonority; no logic, just intuition, and I suggest you listen to it with an open mind, present-centred attention and no expectations. I did this just now and found myself transported momentarily to that state of mind which 'passes all understanding'. It’s good to know it can still have that effect.
Anne Boyd: The Voice of the Spirit—The Shakuhachi in the Music of Anne Boyd
I first heard the shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute, in the ethnomusicology classes taught by Peter Sculthorpe in the Department of Music at the University of Sydney in 1964/65. Although this was a defining period in my personal journey of creative self-actualisation when I began composing with deep seriousness, it was not until the music I composed from 1973 that the influence of the shakuhachi became a discernible and consciously acknowledged musical ideal. I this paper I will attempt to trace the development of this influence with closest reference to a work composed for my 50th birthday concert Meditations on a Chinese Character (1996). This composition was a watershed in many ways, drawing together two earlier works composed for an important and life-long muse, the pianist Roger Woodward: Angklung (1974) and Book of the Bells (1980/81). It was also the work in which I first composed a special part for the shakuhachi which combines with the Western flute, counter tenor and ‘cello in an 8-person chamber ensemble to which harp, 2 pianos and percussion are added. This work is the clearest articulation of the aesthetic ideals governing my composition to this time as a fusion of Eastern spirituality with the feminine Western Christian mysticism. I believe that this analysis will make clear that, in Meditations on a Chinese Character, the transcendent character of Buddhism predominates and that the work remains strongly indebted to the presence and spiritual power of the shakuhachi.
Clare Maclean: Expressions of the Eternal in the Music of Toru Takemitsu and Clare Maclean
This paper will compare a work by Maclean, Lai, with two works of Takemitsu, For Away and Waterways, looking at how musical space is created through the use of pitch—in particular, the octatonic mode—and how this relates to the composers’ conceptions of the eternal. The octatonic mode is symmetrical, with no differentiation in its arrangements of tones and semi-tones; it lends itself to being used as a spatial harmonic field, rather than as a generator of the long-term narrative tension and release which can arise from the hierarchy of notes in the major and minor modes. This non-narrative spatialisation of musical time was seen as an expression of eternal time by Takemitsu. In Maclean’s piece, the octatonic mode interacts with local birdsong – which, like Takemitsu’s music, is fragmentary and non-directed – and a Bach chorale melody, whose musical narrative gives an underlying structure to the work, while being subsumed into the non-narrative harmonic fields.
In their conception of the eternal, both composers draw from different traditions: Takemitsu from the Buddhist concept of Ma, and Maclean from the Christian idea of a God who is both transcendent from and immanent in creation. This article will explore how both composers find in related musical means a tangible point of contact with the eternal.
Roger Dean: Cognitive Intangibles in Improvised Music and Microtonality
Microtonal scale tunings and note inflections characterise much Asian music; more recently, much jazz also emphasises pitch inflections quite different from Western classical vibrato. On the other hand, most Western classical composition (and some improvisation contemporaneous with it) has largely expunged such microtonal features, in the process of establishing pitch hierarchies which underpin tonality and modulation, and depend on octaves (a series of pitches in 2:1 frequency relationships). Notable exceptions include the work of innovators such as Partch and Xenakis. Here I discuss forms of contemporary music making which can be deeply informed by microtonality, as used in Asian traditions. Knowledge about the perception and cognition of microtuning and microtonality is largely lacking, in contrast to the substantial knowledge about cognition of mean tempered pitch by both Western-enculturated listeners and also by people far removed from this tradition in their listening experience. I outline some of the issues which deserve empirical attention. I argue that systems which permit both fixed microtonal tunings and more irregular inflections smaller than the fixed intervals, may provide a route to expression which for most listeners creates an especially ‘in the moment’ experience. In particular, I describe a group of new scales, particularly the ‘Dean 81/91 sequential primes just tuned scales’, which are neither based on any precise octaves nor on repetitive frequency interval sequences. Such a microtonal approach can take advantage of the relative unfamiliarity of its structuring features, to avoid schematic appreciation (based on extensive prior experience), alienate concepts of modulation (‘metabolae’ in Xenakis’s terminology), and foster real-time listening and semiotic construction. Such ‘real-time’ listening may create a special kind of immersion and spiritual frame, and a corresponding affective flux.
Jim Franklin: Japanese Shakuhachi Honkyoku Tradition and its Reinterpretation into a Contemporary Composition Practice
This article examines, experientially and musicologically the approach taken by the author in integrating the aesthetics and musical characteristics of the tradition of the honkyoku (‘original pieces’) for shakuhachi (Japanese bamboo flute) into his musical composition practice. From the standpoint of a Western-trained composer who has become an insider to that tradition, the author contrasts the concept of composition with the process of generations of pieces and concepts of musical sound and form in the honkyoku tradition, including the role and function of the honkyoku within the tradition’s Zen-Buddhist roots. On the basis of his own composition practice, he elucidates possible points of encounter between the creative processes of honkyoku, focussing on the sound processes (or metaprocesses) involved (in particular, those derived from the basis of the honkyoku in the ‘inner life’ of each sound and moment of sound, in intimate connection with the ‘embodiment’ of the performer – playing with the entire body/mind). He discusses his own attempts at forging an encounter and mutually fertile integration: with acoustic instruments, and as a composer of electroacoustic music, incorporating the shakuhachi into this genre through real-time, performer-controlled signal processing, and pairing of the shakuhachi with instruments such as the theremin. The latter represents a similar degree of ‘corporeality’ to the shakuhachi, but allows for direct translation of the metaprocesses of the shakuhachi into an electroacoustic soundscape. The article may be viewed as a documentation of research-in-progress, a snapshot of the ongoing development of the author’s composition (and performance) practice.
Andrián Pertout: Pacific Eclecticism Towards a Compositional Voice
‘Pacific Eclecticism Towards a Compositional Voice’ investigates melodic, harmonic and rhythmic development in contemporary composition not simply via exoticism and the adoption of non-Western scale forms, but via the reinterpretation and consequent integration of extrinsic stylistic and structural norms, with a philosophical ideology forged to deliver eclecticism inspired by basic intuition and spirit rather than academic models of ‘east meets west’ fusion – a ‘cross-cultural compositional process’ no more cross-cultural than all aspects of human life. Tres Imágenes Norteñas for shakuhachi and harpsichord, is an example of this compositional approach. The work represents an attempt to explore some of the aesthetic principles of Japanese art music, incorporating a combination of gagaku (court orchestra music) and shomyo (Buddhist chant) concepts of 'elastic or breath rhythm' and 'stereotyped rhythmic patterns', the juxtaposition of polymodal and polytonal pitch materials based on the In, Hirajoshi and Kumoijoshi scales, as well as a contemporary interpretation of the tripartite jo-ha-kyo form common to not only the gagaku genre, but also to nagauta (kabuki theatre music) and nohgaku (noh drama music).
Garth Paine : Noise and Texture, towards an Asian-Influenced Composition Approach to the Concert Flute
Western art music has featured the flute as both a solo instrument and as decoration in orchestrated works for several centuries. The instrument has evolved from the subtle rounded tones of the end-blown flutes such as the recorder through to the traverse instruments of wood and then metal, becoming the exuberant theatrical instruments of gold, performed in contemporary times by celebrities such as James Galway.
Asian music offers wind instruments of similar character, but utilised in very different ways. The shakuhachi, for instance, has an extraordinary dynamic range and can produce a very pure tone, but is equally well known for the noisy over blowing that provides explosive expressivity that pays tribute more to contemporary timbrel composition than traditional harmony and counterpoint.
Electroacoustic music is characterised by an exploration of timbre through an expansive and fluid approach to the manipulation of acoustic instrument sources.
This paper discusses my new electroacoustic flute composition, which weaves a path between melody, pitch, noise and texture, drawing from the western concert flute, broad spectral sounds similar to overblown Asian wind instruments within the modal harmonic framework common in the music of Asia Minor, and utilised in some Western spiritual music.
Paul Stanhope: Ross Edwards’s Reflections for Percussion Quartet
Ross Edwards’s percussion quartet Reflections (1985) is a work in the composer’s sacred series of starkly textured works written throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Although these works are not literally sacred in the sense of being liturgical pieces or setting sacred texts, the broad intention of pieces such as Reflections is to draw upon a tradition of functional religious music (especially from Eastern tradition) that is intended to aid meditation. This article examines the cultural background, musical antecedents and philosophical ideas which led to the creation of these uniquely personal works. A short musical analysis of Reflections is included, which provides a focus in order to consider aspects of the sacred series as a whole, including the use of traditions from the Asia-Pacific and the significance of sound patterns derived from Australian bush landscapes.
David Cubby, Sui Bao Ping & Guo Si Rui: The Spoken Bird
This work refers to the idea that all spoken words are, ultimately, onomatopoeic and all written words ideograms, because language is so much more than grammar. So, it is a distant Western perspective on Chinese language that penetrates and boldly colonises by means of classification and remote order. All lyrics, imagery and music struggles with this rational detachment from nature through syntax as, for example, the Gaelic overwhelmed but never completely contained by Latin, because it’s only a very neat, portable package of twenty-six modular symbols and sentence structure, or, so it seems.
落霞与孤 鹜齐飞 , 秋水共 长天一色 唐 王勃
'luo xia yu gu wu qi fei giu sui gong chang tian yi se' Wang Bo - Tang Dynasty
'There is a crack, a crack, in everything, that’s how the light gets in.' Anthem, Leonard Cohen - 1997
Alan Lem : Re-sonance: Music for Altered Awareness and Imagery
In music therapy, the concept of altered states of awareness (ASA) is most frequently quoted with reference to Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), a unique form of psychotherapy where the process of guided imagery is reinforced by specifically prepared, Western symphonic music.
According to recent studies, the effects of music in GIM may be best understood from a time-varying perspective, especially the continuous tendency of the music to shift the listener’s awareness from the ordinary waking state. In GIM this tendency is known as the Affective Contour of Music.
With the aim to address the controversial argument for the sole use of Western symphonic music in GIM, Dr Alan Lem, music therapist, and Professor Michael Atherton, musicologist and multi-instrumentalist, created re-Sonance, an improvised music program for use with ASA. The structure of re-Sonance was based on the GIM concept of the Affective Contour of Music, and its therapeutic objective was to assist the listener in achieving a gradual transition from the ordinary waking state through a dream-like experience, to a state of relaxed wakefulness.
The key instruments used were Tibetan singing bowls. They were chosen for their unique sonic quality and therapeutic benefits, but also to distinguish the style of re-Sonance from the traditional ‘classical’ genre used in GIM. Considering the multi-harmonic sound of the bowls, it was decided that the music of re-Sonance should be predominantly textural, with a relatively simple harmonic and melodic content. Accordingly, the program was improvised with the emphasis on patterns of tension and release, tone colour and their variability.
Following its creation, re-Sonance was used and assessed within many clinical settings, by psychologists, music therapists and other practitioners. Their assessment validates the efficacy of the program in facilitating deep emotional states and imagery in a safe and aesthetically satisfying way. This also supports the notion that music outside of the traditional Western symphonic tradition may be effective in facilitating therapeutic experiences involving ASA and imagery.
Diana Blom with Class Teacher Anne Bischoff : Creating 'a very fulfilled and wonderful piece': Asia-Pacific Musics as an Impetus for Upper Primary Class Composition
This paper focuses on a project which introduced Asia-Pacific musics, a traditional music and compositions by Australian composers, as an impetus for upper primary class composition. Nineteen upper primary students worked together over 10 weeks through improvisation and graphic score to compose a five-minute work, culminating in a performance to parents and another class. Music of the Malay Trengganu gamelan (Lagu Perang), and compositions by Australian composers Peter Sculthorpe (Tabuh Tabuhan, Sun Music III), Nigel Westlake (Antarctica), and Stephen Leek (Gabagong), were performed, listened to, and formed the basis of related improvisation tasks to stimulate sound ideas. The paper traces the sounds of these musics through the project weeks via student composing journals, observations by the teacher and the composer-in-the-classroom, plus analysis of several recordings of the piece in progress. Findings noted that: students moved from pastiche composition through to original composition; prescriptive composition exercises and ideas drawn from Asia-Pacific sounds, imagery and imitating became, over time, part of a wider mix of ideas rather than dominated; students developed an understanding that some composing was practice for something further to come (not an endpoint) and this encouraged on-going thinking about musical ideas; and this helped students acknowledge the on-going nature of the composing process. As one student wrote, we created 'a very fulfilled and wonderful piece'.
David Wright : Aurora Festival 2008: Cross Cultural Consciousness
Peking, or Beijing Opera is a strongly inflected cultural form. It celebrates its origins but it is its origins that limit accessibility. Accessibility, while an issue, is not the ultimate determinant of worth in the performing arts. Of greater significance are the visceral and sensual experiences of those who encounter the form, be they performers or audience. These may be encounters that are difficult to articulate or document. In this respect encounters with an inaccessible art form can themselves be opportunities for creative exploration and representation.
Some years ago I was invited to script a text arising from a workshop exploration of cross currents between Peking Opera and Western approaches to performer training. This script was contained by the workshop context, the performance tradition of Peking Opera, the physical skills of the performers involved and the music that converses with performances in Peking Opera. Musicians in Peking Opera work with and through performers. Each contributes to the individual virtuosity of the other. As the third party in an already-complex (traditionally bound) improvisation, I was required to contribute in an equivalent manner. Any artistry I offered needed to arise from and serve this emerging conversation. The result was a profound personal exploration of tradition, geometry and the musical shaping of bodily expression.
Lotte Latukefu: Learning Contemporary P’ansori Pieces by Atherton and Lee: A Performer’s Perspective
This paper aims to investigate issues that arose during the preparation for performance of two compositions commissioned for the 2008 Aurora festival, Chun-Hyang Ka by Lee and Oku Ou Talanoa Mo Hoku Loto by Atherton. The discussion identifies four of the attributes necessary for p’ansori performances and considers how these attributes can be transferred to the contemporary compositions of Lee and Atherton. The study also explores which vocal techniques used in traditional p’ansori singing might be suitable to be used by a singer trained in bel canto. In this instance the performer chose not to emulate the husky vocal timbre associated with p’ansori singing, but instead used other p’ansori vocal and musical techniques such as glissando and oscillation in pitch. Finally, the study considered some issues of interpretation and performance and how to approach the sensitive interpretation of Asian and Pacific influenced music when the performer’s professional training has been entirely from bel canto and Western operatic traditions.
Susan Ung: Performance Challenges in the Music of Chinary Ung
The music of Chinary Ung is known for its deeply expressive mixture of Eastern and Western elements. For a musical language whose means is idiosyncratic it is remarkably affective and approachable to the listener. For the performer—the Westerner in particular—there are a series of special challenges that must be faced in order to access the music’s large reservoir of expressive dimension. Some of these challenges are technical, some are cultural, and some strike at the heart of performance psychology. In this essay, I shall attempt to describe these matters from my own experience of having worked with this music and the composer for the past thirty years.
Anne Power: Teaching for Musical Creativity, Reflection and Cultural Relevance: Meeting Challenges of Engagement
In 2005 I conducted a small project in four high schools using selected music of Tan Dun as some of the stimulus material for composition. Subsequently, in 2007, another project was conducted in eight schools using a different musical selection by this composer in creative response to the performance of a Chinese story. Through some deliberation on the potential of the NSW curriculum in music and of the outcomes of these two projects, I suggest ways of opening up possibilities of deeper engagement of students through creativity, reflection and cultural relevance.
Cathy Aggett: Lotte Latukefu: A Singer’s Journey in an Asian-Pacific Cantata
This paper draws on an interview with mezzo-soprano Lotte Latukefu, an Australian of Tongan heritage, to discuss the preparation and performances of Daragang Magayon Cantata by Bruce Crossman. The interview revealed cultural, interpretative and pedagogical issues which form the focus of the paper. The singer’s views are presented within the frame of a performance analysis on vocal stamina, rhythm, emotion and vocal coloration; gender issues; relationships with the other performers and the composer; and the singer’s interpretation and understanding of the work.
Performance analysis is analysis by the performer for the performer, whereby ‘informed intuition’ guides the process of ‘performance analysis' and the performer draws on deep knowledge from past experience. The relevance of vocalist, Sharon Mabry’s writings on vocal requirements of 20th century music will provide a platform for a discussion of strategies to overcome difficulties encountered by the singer in recent vocal compositions such as Crossman’s work. From the performance analysis of one professional singer, future directions, strategies and issues emerge for other singers tackling similarly demanding 20th and 21st century vocal repertoire.
Aurora Festival (www.aurorafestival.com.au)
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Based largely around Western Sydney, the Aurora Festival showcases a wide range of national and international composers in concerts given by Australia's best musicians. Brand-new music is a strong feature: there are 19 world premieres given by a wide and varied range of ensembles. The majority of compositions will not have previously been heard by Australian audiences.
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Post Modernist Critic-To the Panel
Thankyou for putting on such an interesting and informative workshop and concert today.Do you see yourselves as Modernist or Post Modernist in your thinking?
For your music do you think the mode of enjoyment is via cognition or feelings?